If you’re going to write a movie about Tommy Wiseau prepare for a lot of script notes from Tommy Wiseau. Well, the term “script notes” may be a generous way of looking at it. Over the course of, combined, ten hours of phone calls from Wiseau that were relayed to the writing team of Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber (who wrote the script adapted from Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book of the same name, The Disaster Artist), the end result of those “notes” were things like, “Why does Seth Rogen’s character have so much screen time?” Rogen plays Sandy Schklair, who was hired as a script supervisor on Wiseau’s The Room, which wound up being more what would be the traditional director’s role. But to this day, Wiseau still seems to hold a grudge against Schklair. Neustadter remembers, “It’s like, ‘Why do you have this Sandy guy in so much of the script?’ We were like, ‘That’s not a script note.’ I think it was giving Tommy an opportunity to just air old grievances.”
Another Wiseau-related problem was a stipulation that Wiseau himself had to appear somewhere in The Disaster Artist. And Wiseau is not an actor who just seamlessly blends in – especially in a movie in which James Franco (who also directed) is playing a spot-on version of Wiseau.
“So at first it was like, where are we going to put this guy?,” says Neustadter. At first the solution was to add Wiseau to a sequence that eventually wound up getting cut from the finished film. Neustadter continues, “There’s a scene where Greg goes off to Romania. He gets a part, so he’s shooting in Romania. So that’s perfect, Tommy can be one of the extras in Romania.” Greg, played by Dave Franco, is Tommy’s friend and almost, at times, too-earnest confidant. There’s a yin and yang to Tommy and Greg in The Disaster Artist that fuels why this movie works. As an audience, we certainly care about The Room, this insane movie these two made. But it’s their friendship that provides the backbone of the story. If we don’t care about their friendship, The Disaster Artist becomes nothing more than those fun Adam Scott videos that recreate the opening credits of television shows like Simon & Simon and Too Close For Comfort. So it’s kind of nice that the scene that the real-life Wiseau would be in was opposite Dave Franco’s Greg.
Of course, Wiseau wasn’t having it, stipulating that a scene with Wiseau had to be filmed with Franco. When the idea was sent to Wiseau, he responded, “No, no, James Franco, not Dave Franco.”
Eventually, a scene was shot – one taking place at a Hollywood party of some sort – with James Franco, playing Tommy Wiseau, and Wiseau playing some random party guest. Weber remembers that, of course, Wiseau still wasn’t happy, “He shows up and says, ‘This is it?’ He wanted more lines. And then he just did his own thing, which is what we knew would happen.”
Neustadter adds, “And then we were like, how are we going to put this in the movie? No Hollywood party would have these two guys at it. That would never be a thing. No two people would sound like that at one Hollywood party.”
Weber is quick to point out, too, “He had hair and make-up approval, so that look that he has is his own choice.”
The easy solution was to just not include it in the final movie, because apparently Wiseau forgot to add “it can’t be cut” to his list of demands. But after some pushback with James Franco, the scene ended up in the final movie, appearing after the final credits. When I ask Neustadter and Weber if they think Wiseau is upset about the location of this scene in the final film, Weber quickly says, “I don’t think so.”
After a pause, Neustadter adds, “Maybe.”
Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber were, on the surface, odd choices to write a script that is ostensibly about The Room, since neither of them had even seen The Room. The pair met in the late ‘90s while working for Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions. They had a breakout film in 2009 with (500) Days of Summer.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, the film takes a one-sided, non-linear approach to a 500-day romantic relationship. Since 2009, popular culture has, let’s say, soured a bit on the whole “sad white guy” trope in films and actions that once came off as endearing — think Lloyd Dobler holding up a boom box in Say Anything — now comes off as, well, not always so great.
“We thought a lot about that during the making of (500) Days of Summer,” says Neustadter. He continues, “Because we were watching Say Anything and seeing what a stalker he’s being. He’s being an absolute, crazy stalker. But it takes the time to recognize that times change.”